Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research

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Writing about ideas, John Maynard Keynes noted that they are "more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else." One would expect, therefore, that political science—a discipline that focuses specifically on the nature of power—would have a healthy respect for the role of ideas. However, for a variety of reasons—not least of which is the influence of rational choice theory, which presumes that individuals are self-maximizing rational actors—this is not the case, and the literature on the topic is fairly thin. As the stellar cast of contributors to this volume show, ideas are in fact powerful shapers of political and social life.

In Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research, Daniel Béland and Robert Henry Cox have gathered leading scholars from a variety of subdisciplines in political science and sociology to provide a general overview of the theoretical, empirical, and methodological issues raised by social science research on ideas and politics. Throughout, they hone in on three central questions. What is the theoretical basis for studying ideas in politics? What are the best methods? What sort of empirical puzzles can be solved by examining ideas and related phenomena such as discourse, policy paradigms, and framing processes? In sum, this is a state-of-the-art academic work on both the role of ideas in politics and the analytical utility that derives from studying them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This superb collection brings together, for the first time, the main contributors to the scholarship on the role of ideas in political life. A tight focus on ideas as causal beliefs within policy arenas joins up with a wide view across numerous subfields of political science and sociology to create a uniquely coherent and relevant volume that gracefully bridges multiple literatures. It will be important reading for those seeking to understand the many and vital ways in which ideas shape our politics."—Kathleen R. McNamara, Georgetown University

"Daniel Béland and Robert Cox have brought together an excellent group of scholars for their important volume. Ranging across subject areas and disciplinary engagements the contributors offer significant scholarly interventions on such issues as institutions and ideas, ideas as knowledge regimes, the role of economic ideas in comparative political economy and the role of ideas in comparative welfare states. The result is a remarkably stimulating set of essays in a volume which can be warmly recommended to teachers and students of comparative politics and historical institutionalism."—Desmond King, Oxford University

"Since the institutional revolution reshaped the study of public policy, the role of ideas in policymaking has received short shrift. This book sets a new course by providing cutting-edge theoretical tools for conceptualizing ideas in the policy process, and by illustrating these with a series of compelling empirical studies. Leading scholars show us how to move beyond the structure versus culture debate. Bravo."—Frank Dobbin, Harvard University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199736430
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/14/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Béland is Canada Research Chair in Public Policy and Professor at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan campus.

Robert Henry Cox is Professor of European Studies and Political Science and Co-Director of the European Union Center at the University of Oklahoma.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Ideas and Politics, Daniel Béland and Robert Henry Cox
Part One: Theory
1. The Varied Roles of Ideas in Politics: From "Whether" to "How", Jal Mehta
2. Reconciling Ideas and Institutions Through Discursive Institutionalism, Vivien A. Schmidt
3. Ideas and the Construction of Interests, Colin Hay
4. Ideas, Uncertainty and Evolution, Mark Blyth
Part Two: Analysis
5. Ideology, History and Politics, Sheri Berman
6. Ideas, Position, and Supranationality, Craig Parsons
7. Ideas, Policy Change and the Welfare State, Daniel Wincott
8. Knowledge Regimes and Comparative Political Economy, John Campbell and Ove K. Pedersen
9. Ideas, Expertise and Think Tanks, Andrew Rich
10. Ideas and Institutions in Race Politics, Robert C. Lieberman

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